After the GAO report was released Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking member on HELP Committee, sent a letter urging the Department of Education to address obstacles unaccompanied homeless students face in applying for and receiving financial aid.
The Senator asked the Department to exclude burdensome parental information requirements and to clarify the definition of “youth” from the FAFSA form and other guidance in order to ensure that all unaccompanied homeless youth up to age 24 have a streamlined way to receive the protections they need as independent students. Murray expressed serious concern that the proposed 2017-18 FAFSA does not clearly articulate a fair and simple process for unaccompanied homeless students to apply for financial aid.
“Throughout my time in the Senate, I have fought to remove educational barriers for homeless children and youth… It is critical that the Department of Education streamlines the path for unaccompanied homeless youth to receive the financial support they need to attend and succeed in higher education”, Murray said in a press statement.
Senator Murray has introduced legislation to help ensure that unaccompanied homeless youth have strong and clear pathways into and through higher education. The Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act requires colleges and universities to improve outreach, resources, and policies for homeless and foster youth, including by streamlining eligibility determinations for financial aid, providing housing options between terms, and designating a single point of contact responsible for providing supports for these students. The bill also requires the federal government to provide ways to help resolve questions about a student’s independence and ensure its programs identify, recruit, and prepare homeless and foster students for college. The bill also encourages states to grant in-state tuition rates for students who haven’t had stable residency.